President pardons two death convicts

(image) New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil has pardoned two murder convicts from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment.

Mercy petitions of S B Pingale, on death row since 1997, and Jai Kumar, sentenced to death in 1999, were considered by the President and their sentences were commuted to imprisonment for life.

The mercy petitions of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case, and several others are still pending.

Pingale was awarded death sentence in August 1997 by the Pune Sessions Court for killing two persons related to his estranged wife and being involved in two attempts to murder.

The Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court subsequently confirmed the conviction.Kumar, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, was awarded death sentence by a trial court for killing his brother`s wife and daughter. Later, the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the apex court upheld the sentence.

While the Opposition parties have lashed out at the "delay" in taking a decision on Guru`s petition, Home Minister P Chidambaram said there was no fixed time for deciding the mercy petitions.

Chidambaram has been adopting a policy of going serial wise on deciding mercy petitions since taking over the charge of the Home Ministry in 2008.

So far, 13 cases have been referred and decision obtained in nine. The case of three persons sentenced to death in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and two other terrorist cases were higher in the order than the Afzal Guru case.

Guru`s wife Tabasum Afzal petitioned the President on October 3, 2006 for commutation of death sentence. The Delhi government was asked its view.

The Delhi government`s comments were furnished by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi in June 2010 and they are under examination of the Home Ministry for submission to the President.

Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President is empowered to grant pardon and commute the death sentence of a convict. She can also suspend and remit the death sentence of a condemned prisoner, albeit with the advice of the Union government.